Pirates participate in NC Disaster Relief Fund Jamboree

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It wasn’t exactly a big-game atmosphere, but it was a big-time venue and the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund Jamboree on Sunday at the Dean E. Smith Center did have some big implications for many in need.

Funds generated by the event went to the governor’s Disaster Relief Fund, which distributes to non-profit and faith-based organizations helping in relief efforts from Hurricane Matthew. That storm hit in October 2016 and caused an estimated $1.5 billion in damage, according to a state estimate. The need is still there.
The ECU men’s basketball team joined those from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and host UNC in a round-robin scrimmage event.
“It was really great for us to get a chance to do this with (UNCW Head Coach C.B. McGrath and UNCG Head Coach Wes Miller) and obviously coach (Roy) Williams,” ECU Head Coach Jeff Lebo said. “It was his idea, and what a great idea for people who really are in dire need of help. We in North Carolina know and feel the effects of hurricanes, particularly in eastern North Carolina where we are.
“This is something bigger than basketball that we can give back a little bit to people who have helped us in this state in the past. It was a great thing for all of us to be able to do and be a part of, and really fun for our players also to be a part of this.
More than 80 Division I programs are taking advantage of an NCAA waiver that allows schools to play an extra exhibition game, provided the proceeds go to disaster relief. That includes helping those affected by hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria this year and Matthew last year, along with the California wildfires this year and the mass shooting last month in Las Vegas.
“It was really important to me, and it was more special because of the three guys sitting up here with me,” Williams said afterward. “I helped recruit, helped coach and coached with every one of them and loved every moment of it. … That relationship is something that’s always important to me.”
“It’s big for Carolina, UNCG, UNCW and us to be a part of it,” said ECU guard/forward Kentrell Barkley, who played his high school ball at nearby Northern Durham. “I hope the money goes out to the families who were affected by it, and I hope they can do more of it. I think this was big for the community in general.
Each team played a 13- or 14-minute scrimmage against each other school, with each getting a total of 40 minutes. The coaching staffs of the three visitors all had connections to UNC. Lebo played at UNC from 1985-89, Miller played for the Tar Heels from 2004-07, and McGrath played for Williams at Kansas and was an assistant to Williams at UNC from 2003-17.
The Pirates played the first, third and fifth periods, against the defending national champion Tar Heels, then UNCW, then UNCG. Overall, ECU shot 38.6 percent from the field (22 of 57), including 28.6 percent (6 of 21) from behind the 3-point line, as they were outscored 60-57.
Junior guard Isaac Fleming totaled 14 points overall, trailing only Barkley’s 18 for ECU. Fleming, a transfer from Hawaii who had to sit out last season, showed flashes of what’s to come as he drove the lane twice in a row against UNCW, hitting shots both times. He was fouled on the second one and converted the 3-point play as ECU shrunk a five-point deficit to one.
“He played big for us, I like his game,” Barkley said. “He’s good at attacking the gaps and beating the big men down low. That helped us out today. He played with a lot of intensity as well.”
“We did some good things,” Lebo said. “I thought Isaac, you know he hasn’t played in a year, he’s had two scrimmages, this was his first one in front of people. I think getting the jitters out, playing with your wind, I think the one thing that goes real quick when you start to play in front of people for some reason is your wind, so I thought he got a little winded, but we’ll work on that.”
Barkley was steady, totaling 10 points against UNC, five against UNCW and three against UNCG.
“We’re trying to keep a positive mindset everyday,” he said. “When we went out there today, we knew what we needed to do. We knew what we needed to take care of, and we wanted to play under control. That was the big factor for tonight.”
ECU will open at Williams Arena inside Minges Coliseum at 5 p.m. next Sunday, Nov. 11, against Coppin State.
“I wanted to have everybody play in that scrimmage (against UNC),” Lebo said. “I’ve got three walk-ons from the state of North Carolina that got a chance to come in here and play against North Carolina, so that was big for them. It was a fun day for us, a fun day for all of us.”

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